Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 4, 2020

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:43 pm

Aug 1, 2008

Cast: Brendan Fraser, Maria Bello, Luke Ford, Michelle Yeoh, Jet-Li

Director: Rob Cohen

I’ve never been a fan of the Mummy franchise so I went in to see the new installment The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor with little or no expectations. Turned out it’s a dumb film, I wasn’t surprised.

Brendan Fraser reprises his role as Rick O’Connell and Maria Bello steps into the shoes of the lovely Rachel Weisz to play Rick’s wife Evelyn.

Set in 1946, the couple has retired from adventuring and seems bored out of their skulls, which is why they couldn’t be more excited when the government comes calling to ask them to deliver the Eye of the Shangri-La, a legendary diamond, to the Chinese government in Shanghai.

Little does the couple know that their now-grown up son Alex (played by Luke Ford) has just made a discovery of his own — he’s unearthed the tomb of the evil emperor Han.

In an earlier voice-over we learn that thousands of years ago sorceress Zi Yuan (Michelle Yeoh, that is) placed a curse on the evil emperor Han (Jet-Li, by the way) and his entire army, mummifying them all in clay.

When the youngest O’Connell discovers the tomb, he breaks the spell inadvertently and Han is back. It’s a good thing Mum and Dad are on the way.

What you get here are lots of action scenes peppered with the kind of routine special effects that have become almost boring now. If there was one glimmer of hope it was that sword-fighting sequence betweenMichelle Yeoh and Jet-Li, but it was so short it barely registered.

If you like those big dumb action extravaganzas, chances are you won’t have a problem with this third Mummy saga. It is, after all, all fights no sense. And truth be told, I’ve seen worse.

So then I’m going to go with two out of five for The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor.

It’s an entirely pointless film that I can’t exactly recommend. But if you do decide to see it, you won’t chew off your nails in boredom. So make up your own mind.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Dreamgirls review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:43 pm

Mar 09, 2007

Cast: Jennifer Hudson, Beyoncé Knowles, Eddie Murphy, Jamie Foxx

Director: Bill Condon

If there’s one reason you must watch Dreamgirls, then that reason is Jennifer Hudson, who just won an Oscar for her performance in this film.

Now if you’re one of those who enjoyed the song and dance extravaganza that was Chicago, then I’ll strongly recommend Dreamgirls, a film about three friends, a promising singing trio called The Dreamettes and their rise to international stardom.

It’s about friendship and music and about love and hope. It’s also about that painful reality – that money, fame and adulation doesn’t always bring happiness.

What I really liked about Dreamgirls is the fact that it’s such a visual and musical spectacle. If you’re not big on musicals, this may not be the film for you, but even then you won’t be able to resist the charisma and the sheer singing genius of Jennifer Hudson, a former American Idol contestant who literally grabs your attention when she’s up on screen, belting it out.

She’s feisty, she’s spunky and she’s so confident. She’s really the reason this film doesn’t disappoint. That’s three out of five for Dreamgirls, the big-screen adaptation of the hit Broadway sensation.

Get ready for Jennifer Hudson to razzle-dazzle you.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Shootout At Lokhandwala review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:42 pm

May 25, 2007

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Vivek Oberoi, Tusshar Kapoor, Abhishek Bachchan

Director: Apurva Lakhia

Also at the cinemas this week is director Apurva Lakhia’s cops-and-gangsters drama Shootout At Lokhandwala that’s more or less based on a true incident that took place in 1991.

The anti-terrorist squad of the Mumbai Police Department led by Inspector A A Khan opened fire on a group of underworld gangsters headed by notorious hitman Maya Dolas in a residential society in Mumbai’s Lokhandwala area, putting at risk the lives of hundreds of innocent people living there.

Borrowing this skeletal true story, Lakhia creates the two protagonists of his film — Sanjay Dutt as Inspector Shamsher Khan, and Vivek Oberoi as Maya Dolas. The rest of Lakhia’s film is a sketchy amalgam of fact and fiction, based on recorded statements, media reports and hearsay.

Now there’s not very much we don’t already know about encounter killings, we’ve read about so many in the news.

Therefore the only real significance of this particular incident, in my opinion, is the recklessness shown by the cops who chose to put so many innoncent lives in danger by carrying out this operation in a densely populated residential area.

Sadly however, this very important detail is only once touched upon in the film. Lakhia simply doesn’t take up this matter and I think I might know why — because one of the consultants on this film was Inspector A A Khan himself, so can you really expect an objective and honest representation of the facts under these circumstances?

What you get, instead, is another one of those typical Bollywood-ified versions of a true-life story — think about it, you’ll find all the cliches here — smart-talking bad guys, earnest cops walking in slo-mo, nagging wives of cops who complain their husbands spend no time with the family, the gangster’s bar-girl sweetheart, even a gruesome murder scene shamelessly plagarised from the Edward Norton hitAmerican History X.

There’s absolutely nothing new about Shootout At Lokhandwala , you’ve seen it all before and many times over.

Not a patch on such cutting-edge gangster films as Satya, Company or more recently Black Friday, the problem with Apurva Lakhia’s Shootout At Lokhandwala is that it doesn’t quite know which direction its going in.

Lakhia confuses us completely by telling us too many little stories before he tackles the big one — like that absolutely pointless story about the police force’s best cop Abhishek Bachchan who gets killed by some Khalistani terrorists — now what was the point of that story?

Also, what is the point of those two item songs, and the constant plot diversions to include the women in the lives of these men? Like Neha Dhupia threatening to divorce her police officer husband because he’s hardly ever at home, or Sunil Shetty who keeps giving blank calls to his wife who’s filed for divorce, or Tusshar Kapoor’s bar-dancer girlfriend?

What is the point behind any of these tracks? What do they lend to the main story? And for that matter, what is the main story? Is it about these fearless gangsters who finally meet with a bloody end, or is it about these honest cops who will do anything to wipe out crime from the city?

Believe me, even after watching this two-hour-plus film, I still don’t know what it is meant to be about. And I suspect that director Apurva Lakhia doesn’t know either.

There’s an upside and a flipside to casting big stars in your film. The upside, of course is that they bring in the crowds.

The flipside is that you often have to compromise on your plot itself to make your actors stand out. And that’s another reason why Shootout At Lokhandwala is such an idiotic film.

Amitabh Bachchan’s been cast in the film in a small role, as the lawyer defending Inspector Khan and his team in the Lokhandwala shootout case.

Now normally, one would have cast a junior artiste in such a role, but because Bachchan’s agreed to do it, you have to pad up the part to justify his presence in it.

But the story itself doesn’t need any more of that character. Yet you force it in, by giving Bachchan all these ridiculous lines where he’s taunting his clients and virtually attacking them while questioning them. Trust me, Amitabh Bachchan looks embarrassed to be playing such an insignificant part.

Of the central cast, Tushar Kapoor is miscast as Maya’s gangster partner, Sunil Shetty still hasn’t learnt how to act and Arbaaz Khan overdoes the shudh Hindi.

Vivek Oberoi’s performance is nothing to write home about either, but the blame for that must be shared with the film’s writers and director for casting him in a storybook villain-like character which amounts to nothing more than a cliche in the end.

It’s only Sanjay Dutt who comes out shining, because it’s an earnest performance delivered without the usual Hindi-film trappings.

I came out of Shootout At Lokhandwala with a throbbing headache and I’m not sure I can recommend this film to anyone I care even a little about.

It’s pointless and it lacks focus, it’s meandering and it makes very little sense. So that’s one out of five and a thumbs down for Apurva Lakhia’s Shootout At Lokhandwala.

It tries to be a boy’s picture with guns and gore, but it lacks both style and substance. Because the film has no soul, it leaves you cold and unaffected.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Caramel review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:41 pm

Aug 1, 2008

Cast: Nadine Labaki, Yasmine Elmasri, Joanna Moukarzel

Director: Nadine Labaki

Also out this week, on limited release however, is the Lebanese film Caramel, filmed in Arabic and accompanied by English subtitles.

It’s a chick-flick that unfolds at a rundown beauty salon in Beirut and involves a handful of pained female protagonists whose lives intertwine predictably.

The set up’s entirely familiar and yet Caramel draws you into its drama because the characters are all accessible — the proprietor Layale who’s suffering through an affair with a married man; the young bride-to-be Nisrine, petrified that her husband will soon discover she’s not a virgin; Jamale, the past-her-prime actress who’s in denial about her menopause; Rima, the lesbian hair-wash girl who develops a fondness for a beautiful customer; and Rose, the ageing seamstress who must choose between a dapper client and her sister, the neighborhood crazy lady.

Each of the five ladies in Caramel is in search of fulfillment, but only two of their stories are truly engaging.

Layale’s illicit affair with a married man who will never leave his wife becomes all the more compelling when you consider she’s the object of affection of a shy policeman who watches her from afar and imagines conversations with her.

Equally heartbreaking is the story of Rose, who gets one last chance for love, but it’s tested against her duty towards her senile sibling.

If the other ladies are less appealing, their stories less involving, it’s because those characters aren’t written with the same kind of precision. In the kind of culture where female sexuality isn’t exactly the subject of comfortable dinner-table conversation, I’d have expected a more solid approach to Nisrine and Rima’s stories, but sadly one is deprived that with the under-developed, easy-finish solution to both tracks.

Caramel feels like a film you’ve watched many times before. And in the end, it’s less like the sweet confection it’s named after, and more like the irritable substance used to wax unwanted female body hair that it represents in the film.

So two out of five and an average rating for Caramel. Watch it if you’re a sucker for those predictable romantic comedies.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Penguins, A Love Story review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:41 pm

Apr 13, 2007

You may remember some months ago on Now Showing, I’d recommended the Morgan Freeman-voiced documentary March of the Penguins. That film was released theatrically in the US two years ago and even the DVD has been out for over a year.

But this week at our multiplexes across the country, two new versions of the same film have been released theatrically — an English version titled Penguins, A Love Story, and a Hindi version called Penguins, Ek Prem Kahani, both narrated by Amitabh Bachchan.

Now the film itself was originally shot by a team of French documentarians in Antartica, and it’s really a tale of love and survival. It’s the heart-warming story of the long and ardous journey that penguins undertake every winter for the survival of their young ones.

Who would have thought penguins would make such a fascinating subject for a film? But they do, and their story is filled with drama and pathos and nobility and honour.

As far as the narration is concerned, I can’t seem to understand why they’d release a new English version considering the one voiced by Morgan Freeman was just perfect.

I suspect the idea behind roping in Amitabh Bachchan to voice both the Indian versions was to generate curiosity among those who wouldn’t watch a documentary film normally. It that’s the case, I guess it makes sense.

Now I saw the English version Penguins, A Love Story and in all honesty I have to say I preferred the Morgan Freeman version over this one, and there’s only one reason for that — I feel they haven’t fully exploited Bachchan’s voice.

Where’s the modulation, where’s the touch of humour and wit which is what makes the Morgan Freeman version so engaging? Anyway, having said that let me confess that while the narration does play an important role in the film’s overall impact, the story itself is so dramatic and so moving that it wins your hear instantly.

For every single one of you who hasn’t watched March of the Penguins, don’t miss this opportunity, go to the cinema and watch one of the two Indian versions, it’s a film you will thoroughly enjoy. That’s three out of five and a thumbs up for Penguins, A Love Story, please don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Spider-man 3 review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:40 pm

May 04, 2007

Cast: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, James Franco.

Director: Sam Raimi

It’s finally here, and it’s such a bag of fun. At two hours plus — which is too long for a superhero film — Spider-Man 3 is still so enjoyable because unlike last year’s Superman Returns, this one doesn’t forget that what we really want to see in a superhero film is some fantastic action and some superb stunt scenes. And that’s not missing in Spider-Man 3 even though it’s packed with romance and comedy and lots of emotional drama.

Now the film opens with Spider-Man having become a New York celebrity — everyone loves him because he’s the saviour of the city, turning up every time and everywhere that he’s needed.

Peter Parker is in a happy relationship with Mary Jane and he’s even thinking of popping the question. That’s when it all goes wrong. In Spider-man 3, our superhero finds himself confronted by three enemies. There’s Flint Marko who’d murdered Peter Parker’s uncle, who turns into the formidable Sandman.

There’s Venom, the evil creature that Peter’s professional rival Eddie Brock turns into, and there’s Peter’s best friend Harry Osborn who’s seeking revenge from Spider-Man for the death of his father. In addition to these three, Spider-Man battles his own inner demons when he’s inhabited by an alien parasite which turns his spider-suit black and brings out his worst side. As you can see, there’s a lot happening in this film — MJ sings, Spidey dances, and every single one of them cries.

You could be the party pooper here and apply logic to the film, in which case none of it will make any sense. But please remember, that’s not how you judge a superhero film. The idea with films like these is to suspend your disbelief, and if you do, you’ll enjoy the ride. Let’s face it, the Spider-Man movies work because the hero at the heart of the story is a character you can totally relate to. He’s the geek in your class, the guy who never has any luck with girls, he’s the fellow you borrow your study notes from.

Now, he suddenly chances upon these superhero powers, and it changes his life forever. Because inherently he’s the good guy, he’s not about to use his powers to steal money or harass people. No, he uses his powers to do good. That’s who Spider-Man is. And that’s why we love him. Now in Spider-Man 3, director Sam Raimi once again explores the human side, he questions what would happen to a guy like this when his head swells up with pride. I think one has to appreciate the fact that the Spider-man films have always stayed very true to who is inside that suit — a simple guy with simple dreams.

Even if the villains are cartoonish, and even if the film’s packing in too much all at once, it’s still a film that won’t bore you. Most of all I think you’ll enjoy the big climatic battle between Spidey and his villains — it’s the film’s biggest moment. Also how can you not laugh at those bits when Spidey goes bad — when Parker gets darker, as I like to call it — that whole scene in which Peter Parker swaggers around the city, and then that scene where he breaks into that dance at MJ’s jazz club — it’s such a riot. I do agree the film is too long and twenty minutes shorter would have been just perfect, but having said that, I didn’t want to leave the film because I was never bored.

I’m often accused of being more lenient towards Hollywood movies, I’m told I prefer American movies to our good old Bollywood films and I’m sorry I don’t agree with that. Let’s be honest here and let’s face it — there’s a basic standard of quality that almost all Hollywood films meet, whereas the same can’t be said for all Hindi films.

Aesthetically and just on a basic technical level, their films are far superior products. And that’s not just because they have much bigger budgets, it’s because there’s a lot of thought that goes into those films. Anyway, we’re not here to get into a debate about Hollywood versus Bollywood, we’re here to talk about Spider-Man 3.

I’d loved the first Spider-Man film and didn’t think the second one was too great, but the third is definitely an enjoyable watch. So I’m going to go with three out of five for Spider-Man 3, it’s a good film, in fact it’s exactly what you’d expect from a superhero film. It’s got explosions and fights and dazzling set pieces. Go with a big bucket of popcorn, get a comfortable seat and prepare to be entertained!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Wall-E review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:39 pm

Aug 29, 2008

Cast: Voices of Fred Willard, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Garlin

Dir: Andrew Stanton

Not since ET can I remember a non-human protagonist this adorable.

Set 700 years after humans abandoned the Earth, Wall-E is the story of the last robot on Earth who has been cleaning up the deserted planet, molding scrap metal into bricks and piling them up into neat towers.

Having watched a scratchy videotape of the film musical Hello Dolly many times over, Wall-E yearns for companionship, and, as luck would have it, romance arrives in the form of a white oval-shaped probe-droid EVE, who’s been sent to Earth to find signs of life.

High-tech and armed with a laser weapon that destroys everything in sight, EVE fascinates Wall-E and he scuttles around her nervously, a tad afraid, but also totally smitten. When her job on Earth is done, she’s summoned back to the mother ship.

Love-struck Wall-E follows her there and discovers a corporatized space colony that’s inhabited by gluttonous humans.

Unlike any animation film you’ve seen before, Wall-E is a film with hardly any dialogue. Our hero himself doesn’t speak at all, communicates at best in a few bleeps and other sounds. And yet the film itself has so much to say.

It makes a very pointed statement about the consumerist nature of humans and also about the state of our environment. But in the end, Wall-E is really an unconditional love story. Its charm lies in the fact that it’s about a robot who’s gifted with such humanity.

Telling you any more about it, I’m afraid I might spoil your experience of watching the film first hand and discovering for yourself all its little surprises. Let me just say, when I draw up a list of the most heartwarming films I’ve ever seen, Wall-E will feature prominently.

I’m going with four out of five and two big thumbs up for Wall-E. It’s absolutely the most enjoyable film that’s checked into cinemas since The Dark Knight. Go watch it right away.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ocean’s Thirteen review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:39 pm

Jun 08, 2007

Cast: George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Al Pacino

Director: Steven Soderbergh

Also at the multiplexes this week is Ocean’s Thirteen, the third in director Steven Soderbergh’s Ocean series.

Now I think I speak for pretty much everyone when I say that Ocean’s Eleven was an extremely entertaining film but clearly the same can’t be said for Ocean’s Twelve which came off looking far too laboured in comparison to the earlier film.

Which is why I’m happy to reveal that Ocean’s Thirteen is really in the same spirit as the first film, it’s a movie that’s found its feet.

It’s identified what the fans like best and has delivered exactly that. Ocean’s Thirteen has got a simple plot – Danny Ocean and his boys come together to seek revenge on behalf of their friend and their mentor.

Here’s a film that’s as smart-talking and as clever as the first film. It’s really just about the boys hanging out and doing what they do best.

I think the success of these films really comes down to the fact that they don’t pretend to be anything that they’re not.

They’re created with the sole intention of giving you a good time when you’re in your seat and they don’t disappoint.

One of my favourite scenes in the film is the one with Matt Damon and his rather inconvenient disguise.

It’s three out of five and a recommendation not to miss Ocean’s Thirteen if you’re looking for an evening well spent at the movies.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Premonition review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:38 pm

Jun 22, 2007

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Julian McMohan

Director: Mennan Yapo

What is it that draws Sandra Bullock to these time-bending dramas? At the cinemas this week is the actress’ latest film, Premonition, a thriller about a woman whose perfect life is thrown horribly off course when she’s informed that her husband’s been killed in a car crash.

That’s not even half the problem really, as she wakes up the next morning to find him very much alive and cosying up to her in bed.

The next day, it’s his funeral. The day after that he’s alive and playing with the kids. Then, he’s dead again. Then alive. Then dead. Then alive….

Now this goes on for about a week, and naturally our friend here feels she’s losing her mind.

That’s until she cracks the puzzle like it’s some maths homework, and realizes she just might be able to alter the future.

Believe me, by the time you’ve reached this point in the film, you couldn’t care less whether her husband’s really dead or alive, and quite frankly your concern is directed solely towards yourself, hoping you make it out of the cinema alive, and not bored to death by this incoherent, absurd story.

You know it wasn’t very long ago I saw Sandra Bullock in that other film The Lake House, also a similarly pseudo-surreal film about blurring timelines.

And as ridiculous as that film was, it still had a pulse to it. This one’s just nonsense because it lacks basic logic. The single interesting thing in this film is its climax, which is quite unexpected and throws you off completely, but still not worth suffering the entire film for.

I used to like Sandra Bullock when she did those sweet romantic-comedies and I want to see her stick to that, even if she’s a little older now. It’s better that than this nonsense.

That’s one out of five and a thumbs down for Premonition – let me safely say here, I’ve got a premonition, poor Sandra Bullock’s going to lose a few fans thanks to this travesty of a film.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Wanted review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:37 pm

Aug 29, 2008

Cast: James McAvoy, Angelina Jolie, Morgan Freeman

Director: Timur Bekmambetov

Wanted, the new action film starring James McAvoy and Angelina Jolie is what I’d describe as a guilty pleasure. It’s a ridiculous film with a preposterous premise, but it’s also really good fun.

McAvoy stars as Wesley, a scrawny, squeaky-voiced, frustrated office guy whose girlfriend’s cheating on him with his best friend, and whose boss picks on him at the slightest excuse.

But his life changes dramatically when he’s sought out by Fox (played by the lovely Ms Jolie), who informs him that like his father he was born into a thousand-year-old secret society of assassins, and that he’s got killing in his DNA.

Even before he can absorb that information, he’s unwittingly thrust into a high-adrenalin, pulse-racing car chase with Fox that’s so stunningly choreographed, you’ll have to stop yourself from standing up in your seat to cheer.

Anyways, Wesley allows Fox to take him to Sloan, the Fraternity’s head honcho (played by Morgan Freeman) who explains that the brotherhood was founded by a clan of weavers who saw a chance to alter the world’s destiny. The Fraternity takes it orders from the Loom of Fate, a weaving loom which issues the names of the targets through a code embedded in its fabric.

Don’t roll your eyes just yet. Before Wesley can become a fully functional assassin, he must go through a training process that consists mainly of being beaten into pulp. Having survived that, he’s ready to take on real jobs. So out he steps into the world where he must kill people whose names the Loom throws up — no questions asked, their crimes unknown.

The spectacular action scenes in Wanted defy all rules of logic. Assassins merrily shoot curve bullets, they run about on the top of speeding trains, one even drives a car into a passenger train that subsequently plunges into a gorge.

What’s great about this film is that it doesn’t even pause a moment for you to consider how ridiculous all of this is.

It’s a film that creates a parallel universe that you’re happy to be a part of as long as the action’s unspooling on screen.

Angelina Jolie plays sex kitten and lethal warrior all rolled into one, but the film belongs to James McAvoy who plays the befuddled hero with such ease.

Watch him in that scene in which he flips out on his office colleagues who humiliated him, it’s what makes his character believable despite all the over-the-top action.

Wanted is lip-smacking delicious for the style and the grace in its thrilling stunts. It delivers exactly what it promises and for that I’m going with three out of five for Wanted.

The stomach churning bloody fights aside, this is full-on entertainment. Go in and have a blast.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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